The story takes place in Paris, France during the latter half of the 19th century when a woman's destiny was decided by the social class she was born into unless she married int a higher status. This also hinged upon having a dowry, money/property, given to the groom upon their marriage. It was difficult for women to improve their lot in life because of the social norms at that time in history.
The setting is Paris, France. It moves through several locales, most of them lower or middle-class, but with some high-society thrown in as well.